tv [untitled] June 27, 2012 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT
the army redacted our lives. all of the military folks, gay and straight is that being gay isn't about sex. it's about life. it's about buying a house and bickering over chores. that's my partner over there. it's about deciding whether to have kids. it's about moving to a new place and figuring everything out. it's about life. i do want to say that thanks to the leadership of the administration and the pentagon and so many unit leaders at every level, we can have those lives now and still serve the country we love. thank you so much for having me here. [ applause ]
>> the first question that comes to my mind is why am i here. i enlisted in 2002 because after the events of 9/11, i could not imagine anything else i could do with my life other than to serve my country. as i was bound and focused on that idea, i thought there was no better way to do that than as a marine. the complicating fact was i had come out as gay to my parents at 18. here i was 25 years old, faced with the feelings so deep within me there was no denying it that i had to be a marine.
i enlisted and listened to my recruiter stumble his way through the don't ask, don't tell. he stumbled through and ask me are you gay because if you're not, this doesn't matter. i'll sign the paper and let's do it. i realized at that point that the problem with the don't ask, don't tell policy is it asks us to lie when nobody even realized that we were lying. nobody asked us they were asking us to lie. it really hit home for me when i was on deployment in 2007 and i'm in iraq and every saturday night the officers used to get together and smoke cigars and watch movies to make fun of the way the army did it in band of brothers. as we would sit there, the
thoughts would drift to home. everyone would talk about their families and wives and the letters they got from their kids. i sat there in the back of the room not talking to anybody because not only was it so hard to have left somebody at home, just like it was hard for everybody else but when everybody was getting together and growing closer as a unit, by virtue of the fact i wasn't allowed to say anything, i was growing more distant from my unit. we hear people talk about unit cohesion and how is the repeal going to affect that, i would argue that it got better. now you have a whole portion of the military who is able to be honest with the medium that they work with. when somebody says do you have anybody at home, we can say yes,
we do. when the repeal happened on september 20th, of 2011, it came at an interesting point of my career. i was already serving as a company commander down at the recruit depot. i went into work on the 209 of september thinking that my live was going to change. i went in and i sat down at my desk and i kind of braced myself on the desk waiting for everyone to come and ask me if i was gay. believe it or not, nobody did. i didn't get any e-mails. i didn't get any phone calls. the phone didn't ring. i was like somebody please talk to me today because i felt like i was going to work for the very first time. after almost ten years, matthew,
was going to work as a marine, in uniform, doing my job. doing the job that i thought i had been doing for ten years. i had only sort of been half doing. as we have progressed since then. i found myself cast into little spotlights because all i've gone is acknowledged the fact that i'm gay and the fact that i love serving my country and that i love being a marine. that's it. that's all that i've done. somehow that's news. i can't imagine having a panel where we would say congratulations, these are all male marines, let's give them a round of applause. i happen to be gay, but more importantly i'm a marine.
if i could just touch on one more point, if i've learned anything is that the reason i am here is it still kind of is news. there are still relatively few of us wearing the uniform who are willing to go on record and say this is my life, i'm proud of my life, and i will serve as a leader with integrity, with openness and serve as the role model for our younger troops, for our younger marines and service members and those who come after us to show them that it's not nearly the big deal that anybody thought this was going to be. thank you. [ applause ] >> terrific. just terrific. it is wonderful to be here to
represent the 8,000 or so civilians who work here in the pentagon, together with those other civilians in our military work force around the globe. i'm also awfully proud of the military connection that we all have because we have one mission together. that's the importance of the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, i think, and the importance of today. inner loop did retire as a reserved jag and i remember the fear and concern i had about potentially being outed during that period of time. it would have been awful. i can't imagine what a relief, i can imagine what a relief that is now. we have a great deal to be thankful for. i personally have a great deal to be thankful for in that my husband, robert, wave your hand,
is down here. we have been together nine years and married almost two. i'm thankful that we're being joined today by military members, civilian and military from around the world. you may have heard we had a request just earlier this week from a group in afghanistan that wanted to be sure they could tie in and participate by video in this conference. what an outreach that is for us, for each of us to them as they serve us on the front lines. also think we ought to use this opportunity to remember that we are standing on the shoulders of giants. there are huge numbers of people that will have gone before us and worked on this issue. many of who are in this room today and while we can't go
through all their names, on behalf of us connected with the military service, i want to say thank you for what you have done to make today possible. [ applause ] >> now, like a good lawyer, like i've been trained by mr. johnson and others around the room, i had the laundry list of all the civilian benefits we are now working on getting or we have some. if you want that list, i'll be glad to e-mail to you. it might be helpful and it is available. what i really want to talk about today is what we, what each of us can do in our own day-to-day lives to make a difference. first of all, an most importantly, we need to be as
visible as we can be. everybody has a different comfort level. everyone is in a different place. let me encourage you to be as open and honest as you can possibly be. why? first of all, we have straight allies, colleagues and friends who absolutely support us. one, because it's the right thing to do and second because they have loved ones, friends, neighbor, sons, daughters, who they want to know more about their life and we may be the bridge to helping them understand that. help us be the bridge to our straight allies. we civilians, for those of you in the room and on in tv land out there, we have military colleagues who are not yet
comfortable about being more open. we as civilians have a unique opportunity to be that bridge to help them, if they find themselves in a climate that's not as comfortable yet as it should be. we can be there for our military colleagues. finally, we in the pentagon here are often face-to-face with the policymakers, the people who are looking at the benefits so we have one class of marines and not first and second class marines. we can be there for the poli policymakers. i want to ensure that our visibility is open. we can become one marine corps where a marine can perform his
mission and not be treated as second class because he received lesser benefits than his straight colleague. we can be one air force where deployed airman can perform her mission and not have to worry about her partner and children living in shabby off base housing because they were ineligible for on base military housing. we can be one navy where a gay sailor can focus on his mission and not worry about the school that his children are forced to attend because they didn't qualify for certain dod school benefits. we can be one army where a soldier can focus on her mission without her worrying about her partner back home not being cared for by the members of her unit that are back home. spousal support is critical for our success for our deployed sailors, airmen and marines and
our spouses, our partners need that support as well so we can focus on our mission. i'm not going to tell my own coming out story, but i do want to tell you about mr. will and miss mildred. shortly after i came out, i was on the usher team at st. mark's church in san antonio, texas where i was stationed. actually, i was the chicken on that team, if you can believe that. the usher team must have been 70 and 80 years old. they had been on that same team forever. i was the new kid on the block. one of the usher team members, mr. will came up to me after church one sunday morning and asked if he could talk with me privately. he was a little bit sneaky about it. had no clue but i agreed to talk
to him. as he came up, he looked a rn to make sure no one was listening. he began talking to me about his grown son and his son's partner who lived in houston. mr. will and his wife loved both they're son and that partner. they spent thanksgiving with them, the best cooks you can imagine. mr. will and ms. mildred although they had been active in that church for their entire live, did not feel they could tell one person about their son and their experiences, not one. they were just afraid that their friends would reject them because they had a gay son and that they actually liked him. i was maybe the first gay person they had ever talked to. i didn't do anything. i was just there. i was out and i listened. well, based on my just being
there, they began to open up to their friends, their church friends and colleagues and brought them into the rest of their world. i have to tell you that mr. will and ms. mildred's son died a few years later and they brought him back from houston to san antonio to be buried at st. mark's. i wish you could have seen mr. will and ms. mildred bring that partner arm in arm up to that front row and when they partner finished speaking at that funeral, there was not a dry eye in that house. everyone in that packed congregation was right there with mr. will and ms. mildred. what does that have to do with us today and the military? it has a lot. all we have to do to what ever
extent you can do is be visible. you can be the bridge. you can be the face. you can be the friend. thank you. [ applause ] >> now was there any doubt that we had the right folks to be up here to talk to you this afternoon. what i'd like to do, i'm cognizant of the time and i realize some of you may be fighting a busy schedule. i'd like to go back to each of our panelist and ask probably just one, for one point that i think may have been something that they drew out from their comment. if mr. tann for mr. tanner, as a career
civil servant, what's the most significant thing you have seen in this building aside from stories that you have shared with us that has been a key indicator that led up to this transition from the military side? as you stood from your civilian perspective with that one foot in that reserve side. >> just quickly. i'm drawn to the fact that people become visible in different ways. it may be simply putting a photograph of a loved one in your cube. it may be talking about just as someone would talk about a straight couple on the individual what they did on the weekend. people are in various places and i think that you have to come
from a place where you're comfortable, but you have to stretch that a little. i would encourage everyone who is thinking about becoming more visible, to stretch a little and to take the step that you believe could help you be that bridge that i mentioned. >> thank you, sir. for captain phelps, i don't think there's anybody in this audience or around the world who was not moved by your words and the strength of your passion as a marine first. i would just ask, has there been anything, everyone one in a while you been thrust into the spotlight, i'm trying to count here. aside from the 12 that are blinding you at this point in time, is there any significant event post-repeal, post-that day when the phone didn't ring that
you'd like to share with this audience? >> i would say the most significant event to me, i mentioned when i took command of my company in june of last year, i was in the closet. i was at a point in my career where if anybody had found out that i was gay, even though the law had been signed, repeal had not gone all the way through, if anybody had found out that i was gay at that time, i could have lost my job. a year later, in fact, last friday, a week ago last friday, on the 15th, the president hosted a reception at his house, you know, the white one. i was invited to attend. i captain matthew phelps was invited to attend this pride
reception. i thought how amazing is it over the course of a year i could go from being fired for being who i am to having champagne with the commander in chief on cocktail napkins with the presidential seal on the fact that, although there is a certain distance for us still to travel before we find full equality, the fact that the service of gay and lesbian service members is finally being recognized on that scale. i think it's just an amazing thing to see. >> we would like to tap into one thing that i think a number of folks may be interested. one, you described your experience as a member of the class of 1980 at west point. but today you're also involved as the executive director of
nights out. so from my chair to his chair to his, what can you tell us about that next generation of leaders that is now changed because of how they serve at one of our military academies, and how they will serve as leaders with our next generation? >> well, the academies are, they're learning institutions, and i -- i think that, you know, repeal was more there than anywhere else. when one nco actually said to me that, you know, we braced for impact, and it wasn't even a speed bump. the repeal. so i mean, our students, the cadet students, they've had this preparation of going through high school with gay and lesbian, you know, and bi and trans kids. it's much less of an issue with
this generation. again, it's not even a speed bump at west point. and on the board of visitors, it just hasn't been an issue. we have much bigger fish to fry, to handle at west point. so it really hasn't. and i -- i b don't want to that to be taken as something we've all said. there's exceptions to that, too. i can't tell you how many stories from outserved members that i've seen where they're talking about, you know, a crusty old sergeant major came up and said, you know, i heard you're gay. if anybody gives you any crap, you come see me. or you know, chaplains. this past weekend i met not only the navy commander, lutheran chaplain who conducted a
ceremony for an air force sergeant and his boyfriend to get wedded. she was wonderful. beaming the whole time. for me more importantly in the back of your church was another chaplain, a senior chaplain, air force 06. southern baptist. i asked him why he was there. he said, i just want the make sure everything goes smoothly for my airmen. i want to make sure there wasn't any problems. and there are a lot of folks who are seniors, who are allies, who get this, that this is about readiness. that this is about taking care of our troops, and mission accomplishment. and getting this finish so this is never a finish again. but the academies are doing great.
>> well, ladies and gentlemen we have creeped past the hour of 2, past 14:00, so it is my b responsibility and my honor to thank our three panelists, and to thank you. thank you for being? a standing room only audience in the pentagon for this first ever event. so thank you. have a good afternoon. tomorrow, the house plans to vote on a contempt of congress resolution b against attorney general general eric holder. after the house oversight committee passed the citation last week, when the attorney general failed to provide
documents related to operation fast and furious. that vote takes place some time tomorrow afternoon, and you can see it on c-span. and also tomorrow, we expect the supreme court's ruling on the health care law to be released. we'll be outside the courtroom to get reaction from reporters, and we'll open our phone lines to get your opinions and comments. that decision is expected some time tomorrow morning, and we'll start our live coverage at 10:00 a.m. eastern here on c-span 3. >> july 7th and 8th. book tv explores the culture of missouri state capital. >> this is the one we like to show to visitors when they come into the archives here. and this is a book about harriet
tubman. it's called harriet: the moses of her people. and the special thing about this, this book was written in 1 1866. the special thing is harriet tubmanmade her mark in there. that's the most famous autograph if you want to call it that of what we had in page library: she couldn't read or write. she left her mark, the sign of the cross. >> watch for book tv and american history tv in jefferson city, missouri, july 7th and 8th on c-span 2 and 3. we'll now hear remarks from senate armed services ranking member john mccain on the future of turkish relations. this is a little more than an hour.
>> good morning. if we could all please take our seat seats. >> well, thank you very much. and good -- very good morning to everybody here. i'm sure other people will be coming in. throughout the day. we have over 700 people who registered for the conference today, and they'll be coming in and out. so we want to extend a warm welcome to all of the first comers. this is the middle east institute's third annual conference. i'm putting emphasis on the third annual conference because actually we've been looking
through some old files and discovered the middle east institute has been celebrating turkey for many years. in fact, we found an article that reported a banquet that we had hosted in honor of turkey's 30th anniversary as a republic, back in 1953. but turkey today is plays a very crucial role in the world stage. and the way it is dealing with assertively, some of the issues that confront us on the world stage, has captured the world's attention. the u.s. and indeed throughout the world. whether it's turkey's diplomacy with iran, iraq and egypt, or turkey's generous assistance to syrian refugees, or turkey's insulation of a nato anti-missile. or the way it's dealing with the tensions along its border.
turkey is taking a strong stance. including for the palestinians, which is close to our heart at the middle east institute. turkey is front and center on the world stage. so, question that we will be looking at today. how is turkey navigating in such a turbulent sea throughout the middle east? how is it dealing with the crisis in syria? with the increased friction with the kurdish population? how will the country repair relations with israel while sticking to its principles? this conference aims to answer these questions and others that come up today. to do so, we have a series of extre extremely good speakers featuring senator